Awkward Queen Elizabeth Moments That Were Caught By Millions

Even Queen Elizabeth II has had her fair share of awkward moments. Though Britons have been saying "Long live the queen!" (or king) for centuries, never has it held truer than with the Queen. At 67 years, she's had the longest reign of any regal ruler in English history, and by the looks of it she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Throughout the turbulent history the world has seen since 1953, the Queen has been a constant, meeting with Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson, and U.S. presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Donald Trump.

While nearly anyone who's been anyone over the past 67 years has met with the Queen at some point, not all of those meetings have been a smooth experience. Royal protocol is a complicated thing, and whether it's a First Lady giving an uninvited hug or a major pop star having to explain who she is, Queen Elizabeth has definitely given us some awkward moments. Here are some of our favorites that were caught by millions.

Queen Elizabeth didn't recognize these stars at a movie premiere

Who among us hasn't been at the grocery store and failed to realize there was an actual, in-person, Real Housewife of Somewhere in front of us on line? Go ahead and magnify that by a factor of 20 and you might understand why the Queen of England didn't recognize the Queen of Pop when finally meeting her in person. 

That's what happened after the Die Another Day premiere in 2002, when Her Majesty was introduced to Madonna — and had absolutely no clue who she was. According to The Sun, when an aide told the Queen that Madonna had sung the movie's theme song, Elizabeth responded with a curt, "Oh really, did you?" For her part, Madonna could not stop giggling at the encounter, and insisted she was not at all nervous beforehand.

Not recognizing an American pop star is one thing, but not recognizing a national comedic treasure is quite another. So the event's awkwardness amped up considerably when the Queen turned to John Cleese, who played Q in Die Another Day, and asked, "And what do you do?" Awkward!

A scared kid ran away from Queen Elizabeth at a meet-and-greet

Unlike cool-as-a-cucumber Madonna, 9-year-old Nathan Grant looked absolutely terrified to meet the Queen of England in a video posted by Entertainment Tonight. The boy was a student at London's Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, according to Today, and was invited to attend Queen Elizabeth's visit for the opening of a building that bares her name. The Queen made her customary way down the line, greeting all of the attending families. But as she stopped to talk to Grant and his parents, the child dropped to the ground, and crawled as fast as he could toward an exit.

"That's his version of a bow," his mother can be heard saying, to try and smooth things over. Grant sped to the nearest exit, waved to the crowd, and said, "Bye!" The Queen took it in stride, though, and laughed along with the other families. Entertainment Tonight host Graeme O'Neal seemed especially entertained by Grant's awkward antics, calling it, "The greatest thing I've ever seen."

Queen Elizabeth fangirled just a little when she met Devid Beckham

On the other end of the boy-meets-queen spectrum is David Beckham, who unlike the 9-year-old boy who crawled out of the room, seems to have made the monarch fangirl just a little bit. At the 2018 Queen's Young Leaders celebration, Queen Elizabeth II was on hand to honor young people making real change in the world throughout the 53-nation commonwealth, People reported. Also on hand were Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — back when they did that kind of stuff — and football hero David Beckham.

The toothy, tattooed footballer bowed his head and grinned at the Queen. The usually stoic and thin-mouthed monarch, however, greeted Beckham with one of her largest smiles ever caught on camera. And while Queen Elizabeth II didn't ask for a selfie or for him to sign any part of her body, the admiration was readily apparent.

The band started playing too early when Barack Obama tried to toast Queen Elizabeth

Usually, when the band starts playing over your speech, that means it's time to leave the stage. Barack Obama, however, didn't take this cue during a UK state dinner in 2011. According to CNN, after Queen Elizabeth II gave a rousing toast to the then-U.S. president, Obama took the stage, raised a glass, and began saying, "To Her Majesty, the Queen!" The orchestra, assuming this was all the president had to say, then started playing "God Save the Queen," five words into Obama's speech.

As you can see in this video from The Telegraph, Obama was undeterred, continuing on to praise the relationship between the two nations; he finished by turning to the monarch and raising a glass "to the queen." Exactly zero people followed the president into the awkward toast, instead standing respectfully for the British national anthem. Obama looked down and nodded, knowing he just royally messed up. He remained silent for the rest of the song, then waited for the queen to pick up her glass before finishing the toast.

Queen Elizabeth didn't recognize a painting of her and her father, King George VI

Recognizing childhood photographs of yourself can sometimes be tough, and it's presumably even tougher when you're 89 years old. Additionally, when it's not a picture you're trying to recognize, but a German painting that we'd hesitate to call "life-like," well, it's probably more challenging. So we can forgive Queen Elizabeth II for failing to recognize a painting of herself during a 2015 official visit to Germany.

In all fairness, the painting wasn't a current portrait, but rather a scene of a young Elizabeth riding a horse with her father King George VI. According to an account in The Sun, the Queen looked at German artist Nicole Leidenfros's tribute and said, "That's a funny color for a horse." After inspecting the painting a little longer, she pointed to the man in the picture, and asked, "And that's supposed to be my father, is it?" Former German Prime Minister Joachim Gauck asked if she recognized him, and she said no. It seemed like the royal equivalent of getting a scribbled masterpiece from your kindergartner that says "Mom" on the bottom, and having to grin your way through it.

Queen Elizabeth turned down an invitation to sit on Game of Thrones' Iron Throne

Ok, so maybe Queen Elizabeth II wasn't wowed by a German painting that didn't look much like her. But the Iron Throne? C'mon! Even the Queen of England has to be impressed by a chair made up of swords from vanquished foes (via Wired). But, in true Elizabethan fashion, she appeared wholly not impressed during a 2014 visit to the Game of Thrones set in Northern Ireland; instead, she gave it serious side eye, and politely turned down the GOT invitation to have a seat as the ruler of the seven kingdoms.

However, Queen Elizabeth's awkward refusal may have had little to do with her distaste for "vanquished foes" as a legitimate interior design style. According to the New York Daily News, the Queen of England isn't allowed to sit on foreign thrones, even if said foreign nation is the made-up world of Westeros. "This is an esoteric rule we didn't know about until that final moment," the newspaper reported GOT showrunner David Benioff saying on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Queen Elizabeth's hat almost flew away on the tarmac

Wardrobe malfunctions are apparently as much a part of being the Queen of England as state dinners and tabloid headlines. In April 2011, Queen Elizabeth II made a trip to the Royal Air Force base at Anglesey to visit her grandson, Prince William. The prince was stationed there as part of the search and rescue team, according to the Daily Mail.

Decked out in a Stewart Parvin claret cashmere coat, the queen stepped off her official transport at the base and was immediately met with a massive gust of wind. Her matching Rachel Trevor-Morgan hat nearly flew off her royal head when met with 45 to 50 mph winds, forcing the Queen to grab onto it, lest it awkwardly fly off into the English countryside. Fortunately, the hat stayed on Queen Elizabeth's head, in a stark reminder that even when they're stepping off private jets in hats that cost more than our mortgage payment, royals really are like the rest of us.

Queen Elizabeth II was caught picking her nose

Anyone who's ever bet on a horse to win and watched it finish third knows you reach a point where you just don't care anymore. We can only assume this was how Queen Elizabeth II felt during the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2015, when her horse, Balmoral Gemini, finished a disappointing third in the Highland Class, according to the Mirror. Given the race was held on the Queen's literal home turf at Windsor Home Park, it probably felt like someone coming into your house, eating all your food, and leaving you with the dishes.

To add insult to injury, after her horse didn't win, the Queen was then caught in a moment of "I-don't-have-any-(cares)-left-to-give" with her index finger up her nose by photographer Max Mumby. While to most of us, this might be an awkward picture that gets sent to the family group text, when you're the Queen of England if ends up in the Mirror with the headline "We are Snot Amused."

Queen Elizabeth photobombed two Australian hockey players

Imagine you and your teammates on your local hockey team stop to take a post-game selfie. And when you look at your camera to decide which one to post, you notice a little old lady in a blue hat with a massive grin staring right into the camera. Cute, right? But downright life-changing if that little old lady is the Queen of England.

Such was the case in 2014, when two members of the Australia women's national field hockey team (The Hockeyroos, if you know what's what) posed for a post-game victory selfie after a 4-0 win over Malaysia during the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, according to the National Post. Hockeyroos Jayde Taylor and Anna Flanagan noticed the Queen with a big, stuff-eating grin on her face in the background, and tweeted it out, saying, "Ahhh...the Queen just photo-bombed our selfie!" The selfie was retweeted thousands of times, including by the official Twitter account of the British Monarchy

Queen Elizabeth told Prince William to stand up, and Prince George face-palmed himself

Getting reprimanded by your grandmother for improper manners is embarrassing, even if it's just in the middle of family dinner at the local HomeTown Buffet. But it's especially humiliating when she does it on a grand balcony in front of tens of thousands of loyal subjects, and your son makes a gif-able gesture to underscore the embarrassment. Just ask Prince William, who during the Trooping the Colour parade leaned down to play with his son, Prince George, as the royal family watched from a Buckingham Palace balcony.

As you can see in this Entertainment Tonight video, the Queen not-so-politely told William to stand up, which he did without a moment of hesitation. After William gets to his feet, little Prince George — who wasn't even 3 years old at the time — gives a royal palm to the face, adding insult to injury. Needless to say, the internet caught fire, and as Cosmopolitan reported that the gifs were quick to follow.

Michelle Obama put her arm around Queen Elizabeth

Though we've never known anyone to describe Queen Elizabeth II as "cuddly," it's an unofficial rule of the monarchy that no one is to touch the Queen. Lucy Hume, director of professional coaching company Debrett's, told Reuters that it's best not to initiate any physical contact with a member of the royal family, and instead wait to see if they offer to put an arm around you first. "Usually, wait and see what's expected or what's appropriate for the event," she explained.

But when she was First Lady, Michelle Obama — who's undergone a stunning transformation — apparently never got this helpful pointer. During her first meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, Mrs. Obama swapped some small talk with the monarch, according to The Guardian, possibly complimenting each other on their shoes. Then, seeming both natural and completely out of nowhere, Obama put her arm around the Queen like they'd known each other for years. The Queen seemed a little startled at the unrequested gesture, but, after a moment of awkwardness, put her arm around the First Lady in return.

Mickey Rooney kissed Queen Elizabeth's hand

Despite Michelle Obama's brief breaching of protocol, at least she didn't put her lips on the Queen of England without asking. That was legendary actor Mickey Rooney's move when he met Queen Elizabeth II at a garden party during a 2007 U.S. tour. The Queen stepped up to the actor, who according to a CNN video looks considerably shorter than the monarch, and he immediately grabbed her hand and gave it a cordial kiss hello.

The Queen remained her stoic best, and continued chatting with Golden Globe winner for some time without a hint of hesitation. Sadly, Rooney passed away in 2014, but the moment remained one of his most enduring off-camera exploits. Several news outlets, including CBS NewsBBC News, and even Yahoo! News used the iconic image in their posthumous photographic tributes. Though he was one of the most accomplished actors of the twentieth century, this brief, awkward moment with the Queen is one that stands out for many.

Queen Elizabeth had to explain to Donald Trump where to walk

Have you ever been driving down the street, when some... inconsiderate person in a probably-rented car cuts you off, then slams on the brakes while they figure out which way to go? If so, you probably unleashed a bunch of words that are totally unbefitting for the Queen of England. So we are duly impressed with how Queen Elizabeth II held back when Donald Trump pretty much did the exact same thing while walking through a flank of palace guards during a trip to Windsor Castle.

In a Reuters video (via Newsweek), Trump stands awkwardly at the front of the aisle until the Queen nudges him to start walking. Theoretically, this would be enough to get someone through the short stroll. But for some reason, Trump cuts off the Queen, stops dead in his tracks, and forces the confused monarch to walk around him. They continue in silence as "Anchors Aweigh!" plays in the background, and a palace guard steps in behind them — possibly to ensure no further walking awkwardness takes place.

Court Jester Sir Norman Wisdom wouldn't stop talking to Queen Elizabeth

The court jesters you've probably seen in cartoons look a little like something that just popped out of a Jack-in-the-box. But court jesters today actually dress in proper English suits — at least, they do when they're meeting the Queen. Sir Norman Wisdom is a legendary British comedic actor and Court Jester, according to BBC News, and the most famous resident of the Isle of Man. When Queen Elizabeth II visited the island as part of her role as Lord of Man — easily the coolest of all her titles — Sir Norman took the opportunity to get some face time.

As you can see in this video, Sir Norman tries to get Queen Elizabeth to sample some Isle of Man cheese, which she answers with a curt, "Not now." Then, as she walks away, Sir Norman walks up behind her and awkwardly touches her on the arm to get her attention. As we know, this is a big royal no-no — but he then grabs her hand and keeps talking with no return of conversation! Eventually, a lady-in-waiting comes to break up the awkward encounter.